The 2021 Micato Hot List

By Paul Eisenberg June 9, 2021

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

We can take these wise words from Maya Angelou and apply them to a Micato safari:

Many, many years from now, you may be a little hazy about the order in which you saw all those game reserves or what precisely your Micato Safari Director said that day that made you laugh so hard – though we’d like to think those memories don’t fade too much…

…but what stays with you in your soul are the moments.

And here’s a moment many of our guests have reported having this past crazy year: They step out onto their private verandah, look out at the vast wilderness that seems to go on forever, and without warning, they cry. Tears of longing. Of release. Of joy.

In other words, what it’s all about, what it’s ever about, really, is how safari makes you feel.

The 2021 Micato Hot List

It’s with all those feelings and moments in mind that we give you The Micato Hot List, our round-up of the best things to see and do on safari in 2021 as well as very best places to stay while you’re seeing and doing them.

Not incidentally, Micato can book all of these experiences and places for you for travel this year, as soon as this summer or fall.

And if something you see on this list so knocks you out that you want to read no further than the first or second item, we won’t be offended. Just get in touch with us. We’re here, eager to plan any of these adventures with you.

The Absolutely Coolest Place to Get Away From It All

Ngala Treehouse. Photo: &Beyond

Imagine being led up some stairs – not too many – that bring you to a platform that lets you sleep under the stars. And if or when that becomes too al fresco for you, there’s both a retractable awning above this bed and a roof above another bed in the interior of the treehouse, where a hot shower and flush toilet answer the question: What utilities would make this treehouse a luxury treehouse? The linens are pretty luxe, too, and if you can find a crash pad more worthy of provoking the envy of your Instagram friends, please let us know.

Where to Stay: Ngala Treehouse, Kruger National Park, South Africa

How You Dune: Our Favourite New Place to Be One with the Desert

We have written a lot about the wondrousness of Namibia and our gifted Micato Safari Directors in South Africa, like Brian Nel, have photographed it a lot:

Micato guests, like Lucie Fjeldstad, take nifty photos, too:

And what those words and photos essentially tell you is this: If you think the deserts of this planet are arid, vast wastelands that you can just keep pushing further and further down on your bucket list, stop. And for a luxury turn in the desert, Micato’s Nambia is a fine place to start.

Whether you scale the dunes…

Namibia. Photo: Kwessi Dunes

…or simply watch them…

Namibia. Photo: Kwessi Dunes

…there are not many places where you can sip a cocktail while feeling like you ended up on another planet. Though if you do keep reading this list, you will find another reference to another world, and I’m not referring to the long-running but now defunct soap opera.

Where to Stay: Kwessi Dunes, NamibRand Nature Reserve, Namibia. My colleague Tom Cole writes a fair amount for this blog and also authors the Micato Brochure, in which he writes about Kwessi Dunes: “Secluded Kwessi Dunes’ 12 air-conditioned, welcomingly luxuries chalets—each with a winsome star-gazing room, outdoor and indoor showers, and all the mod cons, as they say—brings us into cordial contact with the NamibRand’s scarlet sand dunes, limitless African skies (it’s Africa’s first International Dark Sky Reserve), and its seemingly eternal desert and mountain landscapes.”

As it happens, Kwessi will be one of the properties we feature in the coming months on The Great Namibia and South Africa Adventure, one of the popular South Africa safaris in the Micato Classic Safari Collection.

Watch “Out of Africa” Out in Africa

Watching a movie out of doors is a pastime from another era that took on unexpected relevance in 2020, when drive-in and outdoor movies became the pleasurable communal experience we didn’t realize we needed.

Well, there are outdoor movies, and there are outdoor movies, and the experience at Finch Hattons Camp is absolutely the latter. As Joy Phelan-Pinto, pictured above with the other movie-watching Pintos, describes it:

The superlatives tend to fly in Micato’s Africa when our guests see the most beautiful creature or discover the most gorgeous view or captivating moment – and they’re not wrong, because that’s just how it is on safari. So I don’t mind telling you that one of the coolest things we’ve ever done is watching “Out of Africa” while sipping Champagne and dining al fresco at Finch Hattons Luxury Tented Camp in the lovely, legendary Tsavo West National Park.

As you may know from having been around the block enough times or watching “Jeopardy,” Finch Hattons is named for Denys Finch Hatton, who, as played by Robert Redford in “Out of Africa,” convincingly romanticizes another quintessential safari experience, flying over Africa, which Tom Cole talks about very nicely here.

Where to Stay:  For more about Finch Hattons Camp, click here.

Walk With the Wise, Run With the Dogs

Photo: Loisaba Lodo Springs

Walking in the bush is as timeless at the bush itself, some might say the very embodiment of freedom because of the delicious vastness and serenity all around you. But before I get too breathlessly hyperbolic, let me take it down a notch and defer to journalist Sarah Gold, who suggests the following:

Even if your walking adventure lasts only a few hours (as most do), you’ll return from it exhilarated, with your senses sharpened and your awe for Africa’s landscapes and creatures magnified… trekking in quiet lets you take in the enormous stillness of the savannah, and tune in to all its myriad sounds—the calls of birds, the humming of insects, the snorts and moans of animals…

We welcome you to read more of Sarah’s bush walk wisdom here. And wisdom is not in short supply during your walk if your guide lives and loves the land as the local Samburu guides do. Which is why we want to single out the walking excursions we can arrange for you at Lodo Springs.

Photo: Loisaba Lodo Springs

Also holding its own as a worthy experience on this list is running with dogs, specifically, sniffer dogs Warrior, Machine, Memusi and Nanyokie, the canine crew assigned to the Loisaba Conservancy’s anti-poaching team.

Where to Stay: Loisaba Lodo Springs, which you can read more about here.

Up, Up, and Away By Hot-Air Balloon Safari

Photo: Micato Safari Director George Kamonde

If there’s a trifecta of ballooning experiences we’re going to go with Albuquerque, the Pacific Northwest, and — no surprise — many places Micato goes on safari, including Namibia, the Serengeti, and the Maasai Mara. As the pilot fires up your balloon and you head skyward, it’s hard not to be mesmerized by the stunning panorama unfolding below: the grazing herds, skittish gazelles, dancing shadows, elephants and giraffes casting curious glances overhead.

Photo: Micato guest Roberta Bouillon

Upon touching down, you satisfy your hunger the Micato way: A bubbly breakfast on the savannahs, sitting on a grassy hilltop and watching the world wake up around you, while you sip fresh-brewed coffee and eat eggs cooked to order.

Read more about hot-air balloon safaris with Micato here.

Where to Stay: Mara Plains Camp

Get Muddy with Elephants and Be Happy About It

Photo: Paul Eisenberg

Within Nairobi National Park is the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Kenya’s foremost animal orphanage and conservation foundation. David Sheldrick was a leading conservationist and founding warden of Tsavo National Park. The Trust was established in his memory by his wife, Dr. Dame Daphne Sheldrick, who steadfastly oversaw the Trust for many years until her passing in 2018. For more than four decades Dame Daphne was a recognised authority on successfully raising, and re-integrating into the wild, infant elephant and rhinoceros orphans.

Micato guests tend to visit while the animals are given their daily walk and receive their morning feeding, particularly joyous times to observe these lovely creatures.

And getting muddy with the ellies? Well, that’s something our guests never tire of, nor do we: About a dozen of us on Team Micato have been on safari since last November and we honestly wouldn’t dream of missing the few minutes we get to spend with these creatures.

Where to stay: Eden Nairobi. In the leafy suburb of Langata is this 9-bedroom gem, formerly a family home and now an amalgam of museum and gallery space and guest quarters, meticulously designed and overseen by our old friends Tonio and Anna Trzebinski.

Eyeballing Entertaining Elephants

The elephants of Amboseli will always have a special place in our hearts, not to mention many of our itineraries, but let me ask you this: Have you seen the elephants of Tarangire? If not, my coworker Ariel, pictured above, saw them a few weeks ago while on her honeymoon.

Not incidentally, Ariel is among the super friendly and diligent Micato Safari Specialists who can arrange this experience and many, many others for you.

And if the Cape buffalo, rhinos, leopards, and lions – the elephant’s fellow members of the Big 5 – are sore that they are barely mentioned on this list, yet elephants are prominently mentioned twice, allow us to invoke this popular African proverb: Tough.

Where to Stay: Lemala Mpingo Ridge

Safari By Segway. Yes, Segway

By 4×4 and foot, by horseback, camelback, helicopter, plane, balloon, canoe, ATV and bicycle. These are just some of the many ways to safari with Micato and we’re always on the lookout for more.

And as a segue, how about a Segway? It’s a mode of transport we haven’t seen a lot of on safari during our 55 years designing safaris, and if rocking a Segway is your thing, or you just feel, “Yeah, have to try it,” we’ll arrange it. And just imagine the photos.

Where to Stay: The Segway experience is offered in Thornybush Game Reserve by our friends at Kubili House, which you can learn more about here.

Have the Jog of a Lifetime in Kenya’s Marathon Lands

You can train for a marathon from the confines of a treadmill or your local park or the streets of your city, but imagine for a second that you’re in paradise. And for the purposes of this example, paradise is the Laikipia Reserve and you’re keeping pace during your run with your newfound friend from the Samburu tribe.

That’s pretty much what you see in the photo above. A Micato guest determined to continue her marathon training while on safari asked us if there was any way she could work out in some of the same lands of the great Kenyan marathoners and we said, of course.

Where to Stay: Segera Greenhouse, a former ranch cottage transmogrified into a two-bedroom villa, cossetted by a private garden and those savannahs waiting for your running-shoed feet. And if you wish, you can be delivered to Segera by helicopter. As you may have gathered from other parts of this blog post, we think our guests should see Africa’s gamelands by helicopter every chance they get.

Tagging Rhinos on Mars

Here’s something you likely didn’t know: Tswalu Game Reserve in South Africa is almost as vast as our beloved Maasai Mara. Or to put it a different way, Tswalu is bigger than 20 Manhattans. But unlike Manhattan, Tswalu is very private, and the reserve’s magnificently designed, luxurious small lodges, Motse and Tarkuni, are the only places to stay there, so you and your family or friends will literally have those 20 Manhattans all to yourselves.

My coworker Diana Meehan recently visited Tswalu on safari, and since she is, as we speak, busily designing safaris to Botswana and elsewhere as one of our Micato Safari Specialists, I appreciate that she made the time to talk to me about her experience here.

Paul: So did you tag rhinos?

Diana: Yes. We watched five rhinos being darted (so that tracking chips could be implanted in the horn and hump of the rhino) and then being woken up. The rhinos are darted by helicopter and you follow along in a chase vehicle. It reminded me of chasing a tornado!

The tagging is for a good cause – to protect these magnificent animals from being poached. And it’s an experience you really feel, because the dedication of the crew doing the tagging is so tangible. They are clearly in awe of what they’re doing and you could see the wonder on their faces when they were touching the rhinos. It was emotional for me and the people I was travelling with. We cried. And we probably said three words the whole way back because we were so taken by the beauty of it.

Paul: What does it look like there?

Photo: Diana Meehan
Photo: Diana Meehan

Diana: Tswalu reminded me of Mars. The ground is super red. And blue blue sky, like robin’s egg blue. Plus Tswalu had a lot of rain the month before we got there, so the grass was crisping up to the point where it was almost glowing gold. So yeah, it was otherworldly.

Where to Stay: As noted, the only games in town (fortunately) are Tswalu’s main lodge, Motse, and Tarkuni Homestead, which you can read more about here. Diana stayed at Tarkuni and said despite its grandeur, “when you walk in the door of Tarkuni it’s like walking into your home. It’s yours, it’s comfortable, and you don’t feel like you have to be prim and proper. It’s just a great place. When we pulled up there one night and all the lights were on my first thought was, there’s home.”

Tippling With and Helicoptering Over Hippos

If you’re skipping around and didn’t just read about tagging hippos on Mars above, this section you’re now in also owes a debt to Micato Safari Specialist Diana, whose experience in Micato’s Botswana included two rare ways to commune with one of our favourite moody curmudgeons, the hippopotamus.

Paul: So what were the sundowners like here?

Diana: Selinda has a lagoon out front. You go out in a boat and, while surrounded by hippos, you watch the sun drop out of the sky. I’m just going to email you a photo.

Photo: Diana Meehan

Paul: And I heard you did a helicopter safari while you were there.

Diana: Safari by helicopter is great in Botswana, first for practical reasons, because there’s a lot of water and while you can certainly navigate the terrain by land, we ended up seeing a lot more game from the helicopter. The fact that we were flying over this huge area and it was flat made it look like it went on forever. With the doors open and the wind in your face…. even when you’re far off the ground, you feel like you’re in touch with the earth. You see crocodiles, and you see elephants and hippos with their babies. It was a mind-blowing way to see Botswana.

Where to stay: Selinda Camp as well as the recently refurbished Duba Camp, run by filmmaking conservationists Beverly and Dereck Joubert, founders of Great Plains Conservation. And fun fact, you can transfer between these two swell camps by helicopter if you wish.

The bottom line

If any or all of these experiences pack appeal, a Micato safari specialist like Diana or Ariel can get you there. Contact us in whatever way you like so we can get cracking on your Micato Hot List Adventure… and we can’t say enough times, we will happily make it happen this year!

Want to explore all these places and more?

Up Next: Wildlife Spotlight: African Giraffes